Monday, November 03, 2008

Arizona - Day 3

Saturday was another opportunity to be in a confined underground area: we went to Bisbee and I (was the only one who) opted to take the Queen Mine tour.

The first claim on this copper mine was filed in the late 1880s by some soldiers who came across an outcropping with mineral content. Mining continued until 1975. Our guide had worked in the mines from 1948 to 1975, I think he said, though he didn't look that old. Anyhow, as one website commented, several miners made the transition from miner to mine guide so the mine contributed to the local economy even after it quit producing copper ore.

A group of about 30 of us rode a mine train back into the mountain just over a quarter of a mile. The mountain has 2500 miles of tunnels. The deepest shaft is 3400 feet and there are drifts (tunnels) branching off the shaft every 100 vertical feet. Elevators and chutes connected the drifts vertically for moving miners, ore, and mules. Before mechanism came, mules pulled the ore carts throughout the mines. There were something like 100 mules down there and they never came out. You’d think they’d get an occasional week of R&R, but they didn’t have a strong enough union. Here we are all suited up like miners. That's a light hanging over that first person's shoulder.

We spent about an hour underground, looking at some of the drilling equipment and learning about underground copper mining. Not surprisingly, the process is pretty similar to gold mines I have toured in Colorado: Get the ore out to where it can be processed.

Our guide said he recalled about 15 deaths in the mine during his years there. A dangerous job and other hazards akin to black lung disease. One of the more grisly accidents (recall, this is Halloween weekend) was when an elevator cage landed on someone who didn't realize it was on the way down.

I got out of the mine in time for lunch with the group in the historic Copper Queen Hotel. Bisbee, if you’ve never been there, is built on some steep hillsides and narrow canyons. In fact, it’s built that way if you have been there. Here's a historic shot and one of mine. It's a fascinating old mining town that is now something of an artistic and retirement retreat.

Here's a website with a lot of great Bisbee pictures:

After lunch Susie and I drove some of Bisbee’s streets and alleys, then headed back to camp, with a stop in Tombstone for an ice cream cone and some more western music. Saturday evening, back at the RV park, was a group cookout, potluck, and(more) story-telling time.

Sunday morning we enjoyed continental breakfast with the group, then said our goodbyes and headed out. This was our first outing with the Zia Chapter of the Allegro Club and we greatly enjoyed it – met several new couples, had a good time. Our "wagonmasters," Brenda and John Barber, from Alamogordo, put together an outstanding rally in one of my favorite parts of the SW. We look forward to more Zia outings in 2009.

Sunday, puttering along driving through some awesome, but barren country, intellectual stimulus came from roadside signs as well as every word Susie said to me. The signs:

WARNING: DUST STORMS MAY EXIST, read one. This would be material for a George Carlin routine. I mean, black swans may exist, too. Also unicorns, etc. But, then, maybe they don't exist. Maybe we don't exist, .... . Did you ever think of that?

Then: VISIBILITY MAY BE ZERO. This message seems to need some elaboration. For example: IF YOU CAN READ THIS, VISIBILITY IS NOT ZERO. Also, IF YOU CANNOT READ THIS, WELL, NEVERMIND.

One unique aspect of the day was that we did not have to re-set our watches for Standard Time. I'm not sure that's ever happened to me. Once we set our watches on AZ time on Oct. 28, we didn't have to change it for NM time on November 2! Doesn't take much to entertain me for 500 miles. XM radio helps, too.

Got to Truth or Consequences and found an RV park just before dark, then home about noon on Monday. The Rio Grande Valley was gorgeous in gold and green and as Susie said, "It's kind of nice to drive slower and see more." I don't detect any crack growth on the tires, but will now be able to replace them with a little more control of the situation.

We had a great time and we look forward to more Zia Allegro Club outings in 2009. Our next major Tuzitrip is to Florida in December. Those shuffleboard courts are calling.


Rob and Susie

Arizona - Day 2

Friday, Halloween, was pretty much a free day: the only scheduled event was dinner in Tombstone followed by a cowboy and western music show - turned out that an annual festival was in progress.

I spent most of the day, however, traveling to and from Tucson on Tuzigoot business. As I mentioned, somewhere on the trip down Tuzi’s hot water heater cover came off. I had called a RV supply shop in Tucson, found they had the part, and decided to pick it up. We had planned to go to Tucson on Monday, en route to Las Vegas, but we changed our minds because of the sidewall cracks in Tuzi’s tires. They didn’t look threatening (to me), but conventional wisdom is that you only get 5-6 years out of RV tires - aging gets them before tread wear does. Tuzi’s tires are 5.5 years old. I consulted with a couple of our fellow travelers (in the good sense of that term) and they thought caution dictated replacing the tires. Personal stories of blowouts were quite sobering. (Club rallies provide excellent opportunities to learn.)

So, when I got to Tucson I called tire shops and found one that had six tires of the size that I thought I needed. I arranged to come in Monday to have them installed. Then, when I got back to the RV park, I discovered I had mis-remembered the tire size. How dumb is that? Calling back to Tucson, I could only find six tires of the correct size at one shop, but they were an off-brand - not Michelins.

Now, I must admit I had not diligently checked the tires for cracks before we left Albq, so I figured that if I had driven down on cracked tires, I could drive home on them, too, albeit more cautiously. (Extending that logic, I could drive on them endlessly, but no-o-o.) I generally drive in the low 60s on interstate highways. I stayed in the low 50s returning. As I write this, it’s Sunday evening in a T or C RV park, we've had no problem, I can’t see any change in the tires’ condition, and we’ve only got 160 miles to go tomorrow. [Update Monday evening: No problem.]

But, back to Tombstone. We had some time before dinner to look around. Here's the historic Tombstone courthouse and a passing stagecoach.

Meanwhile, on Main Street, outside of where we were fixin' to get some vittles, it looks like trouble's a-brewin.' That's Wyatt in the red tie. Something tells me that this situation will not turn out OK.

Dinner and the show were fine, though we left at intermission. I was tired and the festival schedule showed that the second-act acts would be playing on Saturday afternoon and we could come back for that. Which we did.

Next: Day 3


Rob and Susie